November 2022

God of hope

Hope, that inner yearning for something or someone outside of ourselves to reach into our lives with a beneficial effect. For Christians, we hope in God. Faith enables us to confess our inability to control the things which God says only He can control and change. And it is hope which motivates believers to lean into God, trusting Him to fulfill His promises in our lives both now and for eternity. Christian hope is not foolish or wishful thinking in airy fairy aspirations for the impossible. It’s not blind dreams rising from our sense of desperation. No, biblical hope is in a person with proven holy character and a spotless record of meeting needs and fulfilling promises.

Jeremiah, who most likely wrote the book of Lamentations, not only new the ugly pains of life, but also the despair and pessimism those pains often cause. In Lamentations 3:22-24, Jeremiah shares some of the inner qualities which enable hope in God. The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” When nothing goes according to human desire or plans, God remains the one constant with unchanging consistency. Notice that Yahweh, the LORD, is central to Jeremiah’s confession of belief.

Jeremiah was not digging deep into himself, he was not trusting other people to perfectly respond to his problems, and he was not relying upon luck, whatever that is? No, Jeremiah focused squarely upon the steadfast love of the LORD. Only God can express love without hypocrisy or hidden and suspicious intent. Only Yahweh, who is in essence holy and loving, has the capacity for selfless affection that reaches out and never diminishes in its consistency. Such perfect love motivates the LORD to deliver mercy to people who don’t deserve it. And His mercies never come to an end, they are inexhaustible, without human limitations, and without questionable motives. God’s mercy is pure, refreshing, and rejuvenating as He enables believers to rise above the crushing effects of living in a world dominated by darkness. Such an infinite reservoir of mercy awaits everyone of His children each morning as they awake to the realities of a new day, irrespective of circumstances.

One of the advantages that comes with age, is that of recounting the many ways God has proven Himself to be loving, to be merciful, and to be faithful. However, these supreme qualities are usually proven best through the dark and lonely events of life that take us past our limits. When all others fail us, when the world abandons or injures us, and when self proves grossly deficient, it is the LORD who is discovered to be invisibly and silently present. That is how Jeremiah could so confidently say, the LORD is my portion. When this life delivers despair and emptiness, the LORD is there to meet your needs, to speak to the inner recesses of a bruised heart, and to enable perseverance for His purposes.

The upshot of Jeremiahs confession is that he instructs his soul, he authoritatively directs self to hope in God. You see, God authored hope, which is biblical hope, is more interested in God than in achieving an outcome we consider best. This hope rises from the proven character of our Saviour and Lord, it looks past the here and now, and it leans towards the heavenly. Once this hope has it’s focus on Christ, who constantly intercedes for us, it is content to let God be God, as He administers sufficient mercy for the present day, ready to be refreshed in the next morning.

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God of unimaginable grace

Grace is a quality spoken of little by the world, yet we depend upon it for everything in life. I’m thankful for the Bible’s record of Job, who suffered unimaginably, yet he never lost sight of God’s grace in the nightmares of his life. It’s a peculiar human trait, we thank God for the pleasant things, and blame Him for the unpleasant. Into our human struggles of life, Job offers a refreshing perspective on God and His grace.

Job, having lost all his children, everything he owned, all his riches, all but four friendly messengers, his good health, and his public reputation, is left with a complaining wife who advised him to “curse God and die” (Job 1-2). As if that wasn’t enough, he had to endure three so-called friends who tormented him with false allegations of sin which they claimed were the cause of all his problems. His life had been hijacked by the miseries inflicted by Satan, leaving him with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head (Job 2:7). Isolated from society, Job lived at the local rubbish dump, scraping his sores with pieces of broken pottery.

Job 3:1 shows us the raw wound of suffering as he cursed the day of his birth. Job spoke honestly with God saying, my complaint is bitter (Job 23:2), and God listened to his openhearted lament. In times of greatest need, Job knew abandonment; my relatives have failed me, my close friends have forgotten me (Job 19:14), all my intimate friends abhor me, and those whom I loved have turned against me (Job 19:19). At this point, Job looked up with resurrection hope; I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God (Job 19:25-26).

Despite how we may feel towards God when suffering, He never uses His position of authority to become disinterested or disengaged. Job asked, would he (God) contend (debate) with me in the greatness of his power? No; he would pay attention to me (Job 23:6). Too often, grace is thought of as soft, or even weak, yet Job testifies to the opposite. Gracious God met Job during the nightmare providing inner faith resources while waiting for physical relief to be dispensed. Mistakenly, suffering people sometimes think that God isn’t interested, or, that He is so offended that He turns His back on us. But the opposite is true, when damaged and suffering sinners call to the Almighty, He gives attention.

Job acknowledges in chapter 23:13-14, he (God) is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me, and many such things are in his mind. Like Job, we can take assurance from the Lord’s willingness to listen and to invisibly work out His plans in His timing, for His glory, and our blessing. But none of this happens in an instant, although we may wish it would. Suffering is often the path required to expose grace, patience, and faithfulness. In God’s unchangeable nature, he never turns His back on His children, even during times when we fail to recognise His presence. His purposes are always fulfilled, even though we may hate, or resist, His choice of tools used to accomplish them.

God’s grace gifts the suffering believer with the required faith to enable perseverance. Grace is by no means cowardly or rebellious. Rather, grace perseveres while reaching out in desperation for divine resources to endure. God’s grace enables even the feeblest person to stand on solid ground because they know the Lord’s presence and His eternal purposes are infinitely higher than ours.

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Joy of the heart

Joy can be a powerful experience, lived out in different ways and with various levels of intensity. I doubt anyone dislikes feeling joy. Joy is by nature pleasurable, it enriches relationships, it gives birth to peace, it affirms being loved, and joy builds hope that desires more joy. Such a simple thing, yet so profound; joy manifests gladness, appreciation, contentment, and happiness. What’s not to like about joy.

Solomon, having exhausted himself in the exploration of happiness, concluded that apart from him (God) who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases Him, God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy… (Ecclesiastes 2:25-26). The experience of joy is a gift of common grace which equally applies to everyone. But for those seeking the highest levels of joy, regardless of circumstances, it can only be found by first of all being a God pleaser. The bonus of being a God pleaser first and foremost, is that God gifts you with wisdom and knowledge first, and from these comes joy.

For believers in Jesus Christ, joy is far more than an emotion than may, or may not, be achievable. Joy is an intrinsic component of life designed into us as image bearers of our Creator. Joy is the second facet of a life controlled by God the Holy Spirit; the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy… (Galatians 5:22). Some may mock at the idea that although you do not now see him (Jesus Christ), you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9). This is at the very heart of what it is to be a Christian. We exercise faith, valuing God’s gift of salvation above worldly pleasure. Consequently, we experience joy that’s not dependent upon fleshly pleasures. And when we experience the physical and emotional highs of life, we celebrate them with gladness and energy.

Obviously, because we do not live in ‘Lala land,’ we Christians confess being touched by the struggles and pains of life, and sometimes often. And yes, there are chapters in life when pain works powerfully to impair our Christian joy. It would be false for us to deny this. However, for the children of God who maintain a Christ-centred focus during those painful chapters, there is a deep joy which may not be able to jump or dance with excitement, but inwardly rejoices with thanks for the faithfulness of God. Then, as life changes, and we are enabled, we express our joy more outwardly for others to share. Especially during the difficult seasons, Solomon’s words ring true; the hope of the righteous brings joy… (Proverbs 10:28). Regardless of whether our earthly pains are brief or life-long, hope in God for eternal life brings joy. Being convinced of your soul’s security in Christ, He produces a joy beyond compare, especially when we are physically or emotionally unable to show it outwardly. This inner rest is in Christ and cannot be touched by people or circumstances (Heb 4:3).

So, we have joy in Christ, sometimes quiet and calm, other times loud and exuberant. It’s a joy that lives for the day when because of being imputed with Christ’s righteousness, we hear His welcoming words as we enter heaven. ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master’ (Matthew 25:21). Then, to our fullest ability, the joy of Jesus Christ will infiltrate and overwhelm us for His glory.

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God of Glory – Part 3

It’s one thing to acknowledge God’s glorious nature, and to say He deserves glory, but it’s a completely different matter to live for the purpose of glorifying God with YOUR life.

Through him (Jesus) we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2). While salvation may have been out of our hands, our response to Jesus’ grace is intended to produce joy, hope, and glory in God. Salvation is not primarily for or about us, it’s for and about the glory of God through Jesus Christ in us. This gospel fact dramatically changes the trajectory of our lives. Our salvation was not foremost for our pleasure or our glory, but for God’s.

Our capacity and desire to glorify God only exists because the Holy Spirit operates within us to awaken and enable us to grow in Christlike character which expresses God’s glory. Our desire should manifest Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:20-21. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. God’s power works within His church to accomplish far more than we believers ever thought possible throughout every generation of Christian for God’s glory. This fact is not open for negotiation, and it will never be compromised by God who is the One doing this work.

We may not always enjoy God’s sanctifying methods to fulfill His will in the matter of glory, but we are to submit to the Lord with contented obedience. King Nebuchadnezzar learned this lesson the hard way, as have many of us. The king really did think life was all about himself. He made a point of letting everyone know that everything was for his glory and others need to get onboard with his self-exalting mission. Nebuchadnezzar said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30). Fortunately for Nebuchadnezzar, the Lord’s grace was willing to send the king to “glory school” for a few sessions in humility.

Like many of us, Nebuchadnezzar was not the fastest learner, and it required 7 years of the strictest education before the student complied. However, we praise God for His 7 years of persevering tuition with Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws (Daniel 4:33). God’s mercy was willing to employ such extreme measures to save this self-righteous sinner. Only a loving God would do such a thing. Concluding 7 years of continuous humiliation, God produced within the King the most spectacular confession, praising His tutor. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble (Daniel 4:37).

As our Christian character is daily challenged in this matter, may we learn faster and easier than Nebuchadnezzar. Be encouraged, God’s divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence… (2 Peter 1:3). May the joy of such a rich calling inspire us to live for God’s glory.

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God of Glory – Part 2

Rising from the pages of God’s Word comes an exhortation which is repeated many times and with many different wordings, but the essence remains constant, as in Psalm 22:23. You who fear Yahweh, praise Him; All you seed of Jacob, glorify Him, and stand in awe of Him, all you seed of Israel. Because we Gentile believers are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise (Galatians 3:29), we therefore share in this inspiring exhortation to glorify the God of Israel.

For those born again by the Spirit of God, this should not be difficult. We know that through Christ, Yahweh is revealed to us as overtly glorious. Of all the subjects and objects of our possible meditations, this is the pinnacle of all that demands our attention. On the glorious splendour of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate was the commitment of David’s thought life (Psalm 145:5). No subject is more worthy of a Christians’ daily attention than focusing on and walking in the reality of God’s glory.

The world happily follows the arch enemy of God, who constantly challenges believers to relegate the God of glory to a low place in their priorities. The allurements of fleshly pleasures and materialistic possessions are daily calling God’s people to exchange the glory of God for self-glory. The Lord challenged Israel through the prophet Isaiah, to whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike? (Isaiah 46:5). Obviously, the answer is no-one. No human, and no angelic being is holy or majestic enough to even be compared with Yahweh. Yet, our self-deceiving hearts (Jer 17:9) are inclined to distraction, to self-promotion, and to anything that de-escalates the transcendent glory of God.

Although God alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see (1 Timothy 6:16), yet He has provided a single way of access for sinful humanity to Himself. By God’s immeasurable grace he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Hebrews 1:2-3). Access to God is precisely as Jesus said, no one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6). Jesus alone, being divine in nature, is qualified to redeem sinners of their sin and grant access to His holy heavenly Father. Jesus alone opened a path of access to God through the Cross of Calvary. Therefore, it is right that saved sinners proclaim that Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God.

God, who had previously been unapproachable is now approachable through the Lord Jesus Christ. In John 17:3, Jesus prayed, this is eternal life, that they (sinners) know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. Through faith in Jesus, we are not only able to know about God, but we are able to know God actually and personally. This is a magnificent expression of God’s glorious character; He wants to be known, and He has done everything necessary for rebellious humanity to know Him.

This amazing gospel truth is both humbling and exciting. As Christians, we are a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10).

To be continued…

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